The magic calculator
Trip Start Dec 16, 2005
125Trip End Jun 12, 2006
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Where I stayed
Great views from the hotel over to Mt. Mulange's peak sticking out of the clouds over in Malawi. Hopefully I'll be up there in a couple of days.
Borders are usually a hassle and in Africa they tend to attract the scum of the earth. 2 cyclist tried to charge me 150,000 meticals to take my luggage the 2 km to the border. My hotel lady said it should be 5,000. They kept grabbing my bag, not allowing me to find any other cyclists. The lady from the hotel spoke with them and I gave them 10,000 each when we got to the border. They then started demanding 150,000 again! A couple of nice Malawian then helped me tell them where to go.
Next there were the money changes. Firstly they tried to sting me for half the true rate of exchange, then the guy pulled out his magic calculator that did the maths in his favour! When he typed in the numbers my Malawi Kwacha should have been 7,000 but it showed as 6,000 on his calculator. I wish I could get one of those for calculating my pay check.
The lady from the hotel was a lifesaver in helping me out with these 2 issues and it sort of made up from the fact she had a crap hotel.
Malawi feels like been back in Uganda to some extent.
On the drive all I could see were miles and miles of tea plantation in the shadow of Mt. Mulange. The roads were excellent, some of the best I'd seen since Rwanda.
If a countries wealth can be determined by the means of transport people take, then Malawi would be very low down the list as the road to Blantyre teamed with walkers and cyclists. Malawi is actually one of the poorest countries in Africa and also one of the most populated per sq. mile. Malawi had about the same population as Mozambique, but if you check their size difference on a map Malawi is about a tenth the size!
There were police checkpoints all the way from the border to Blantype not too sure what for exactly.
My guide book had mentioned that the people of Malawi were super friendly and on this short minibus journey I also got that impression. All the way people have wanted to talk to me and help me with anything I needed, all with no ulterior motives.
There is definitely a lot of poverty and begging here, but arriving in Blantype I started to see signs of a lot of wealth, people driving cars that I would have no hope of affording back at home.
Doogles, the hostel I booked into, seems really nice with a whole bunch of travelers there. Probably more so than I've seen anywhere else on my travels so far. They also have a great bar and pool. I'm beginning to think what the hell am I doing going on a hike, why don't I just stay here and chill by the pool?
I got myself a Sobo ginger beer and checked out some of the bank notes, thinking how clean and colourful they all seemed over here. When I'd finished with the bank notes my eyes moved to the fridge to check out all the new beers that will be on offer to me that evening.
That afternoon I got some cash from the bank and went to the local Shoprite supermarket for my camping food. The supermarket was huge and as big as one I'd go to back in the US, with prices to match.
Sat in the bar with 2 English gap year students that evening. I don't know if I'll be able to handle drinking back in England ever again watching just how much they consumed. They must have had about 10 gin and tonic and vodka and pineapple drinks. I managed to make my way through the whole beer selection a couple of times. All beers are made by Carlsberg who have a brewery just outside Blantype. They had a watery Kuche Kuche and Carlsberg Special Brew, Carlsberg Lager, Carlsberg Brown and Carlsberg Stout. Carlsberg Special comes out on top closely followed by lager, or green as it is called. It was all a welcome relief after the beer in Mozambique but still a long way off Uganda's Nile Special.